Apologies for the tardiness of this update.  If you have ever attended an F1 weekend in Montreal, you’ll understand why sitting at your computer so you can update your blog is extremely low on the list of daily priorities.

So, Friday is Practice day at the circuit.  This is the day I take alot of pictures from track level, and generally scope out the circuit and buy some team logo-ed shirts.  The day started out with me leaving our room at 730am and heading down to get my car.  I am doing Valet Parking, but I parked the car myself, with a Valet sitting in the right seat making sure I wasn’t doing anything “inappropriate”.  I am 100% against giving the keys to my car to a Valet.  l’m sure most are very responsible, but the ones that aren’t don’t wear “Hello, my name is Wreckless Idiot” stickers on their nice jackets.  Once I had dropped off the Valet at the front door of the hotel, I told TomTom where I wanted to go.  I find GPS devices usually very useful and reliable, but if you’ve ever tried using one downtown when you’re surrounded by skyscrapers, you’re then familiar with the “Nav Nervous Breakdown Syndrome”.  The symptoms are pretty easy to spot.  Your GPS throws a fit, and starts moving you around the city in multi-block chunks spread only seconds apart.  I had that happen in Boston once, and I swear to you I drove around the city for 30 minutes just trying to catch up with the GPS and get agreement on our exact location on this planet.

Anyhow, I digress.  The Luigi Ferrari club had arranged for “secure parking” as part of a charity fundraiser.  The parking lot is on the island, so I decided to give it a try.  I still have to walk for close to an hour to get to my seats on the far end of the circuit, but even by taking the Metro, the walk is about 45 minutes.

After picking up some shirts, and my KangarooTV, I decided to check out our front row seats.  Well, let me just say that the placement of a TV screen and the associated scaffolding has been moved so that we have an even better view of the track.  Now we can see part of the main straight, start/finish line, turn 1, turn 2 and up the back straight to turn 3.  Sweet!  And we’re close enough to the track that I could *in theory only* all out of my seat and land on the monocoque of Lewis’ MP4-23.

So, next was scoping out some shooting spots for the Practice Session starting at 10am.  Because it was a bit rainy/misty, the crowds were lighter.  I was happy about that.  The area I prefer to shoot from is an “exclusive access” area only.  You have to have a pretty plastic badge that has your name, picture, blood type, SIN/SSN, height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, boxers/briefs, favourite author and mother’s maiden name on it.  I don’t have that, but I do have Photoshop and time on my hands ;)

But alas, like security in the virtual world, the physical world is rife with soft spots.  And I just climbed over and down one of them.  The key to not getting booted is to not look like some prat who shouldn’t be there.  So, pop a big lens on your camera, carry a rediculously large and heavy amount of equipment and look generally pissed off.  I practice this in front of a mirror before each GP.  Just ask my friend Hans about how far looking like you belong somewhere will get you in Montreal (like a JordanF1 exclusive team party).

It was about 15 minutes before the track was green, and I struck up a conversation with one of the “pros” who wear the much coveted (by me) official FIA “Photographer All Access” smocks.  The nice gent I met was a freelancer from northern NY state and covers open wheeled racing in North America.  We exchanged some race experiences and then settled down to “work”.  The early cars during practice are what I like to think of as “street sweepers”.  They are the less competitive cars/teams who’s primary job during practice is to drive around the track and clean it of debris, and try to leave as much rubber in the corners as possible.  Once the top teams are satisfied that the cleanup is complete, they’ll start sending out their cars.  You’ll never see a McLaren, BWM or Ferrari hitting the track first during practice.  Bet you didn’t know that.  Ok, Hans, you knew that.

My new pro photog friend made a gesture with his eyes and head that indicated to me that I should turn around to see something interesting.  I was figuring it was going to be some inconceivably beautiful pitbabe, but to my amazement it was a smallish guy in his 50s with short grey hair.  It was none other than SpeedTV’s Peter Windsor!  Well, that was very cool.  He was standing with a few other SpeedTV guys chatting, so I decided this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I went over to meet him.  We had a brief chat (he liked my camera equipment and said I must take great pictures).  I asked him who his money was on for this weekend, and he said as he pointed “that boy there”.  Lewis Hamilton was driving by in his shiny McLaren Mercedes.  Well, Peter Windsor favouring Lewis Hamilton is like Don Cherry favouring Doug Gilmore.  Anyhow, back to the action…

A few months ago, I got a Facebook notification from someone I went to University with.  It was a total surprise and wonderful news.  We were both going to be at the race, and were sitting 1 grandstand apart.  So we called each other and met up.  It’s always amazing to me how guys who haven’t seen each other in 20 years can just pick up where they left off.  We’re both a big bigger and greyer, but mostly the same too though.

After a few Bud’s with my long lost friend Andre and his brother in law, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with Helen at the Ferreira Cafe on Peel Street.  It was an event hosted by the Ferrari Club of Ontario.  Dinner was really good, and the people we met were interesting.  But Crescent Street was calling me.  Just before we left the restaurant, Andre called me and said that they were coming back into town to “do Crescent Street”.  So we met up, and I drank too many Martinis and had a great (but way too expensive) cigar.  Another great night in Montreal.

So, that’s where I’ll wrap it up.  I have to get on to pictures and re-capping today’s Qualifying news.  Tonight, we’re at the BMW Sauber team dinner.  Helen and I think Nick Heidfeld will be there tonight.  He hasn’t been to any of the previous dinners, because he’s usually the “#1” driver who is higher on the grid.  Last year we met Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel.  I’m actually hoping Nick is there because I need to get his autograph on my M5 speeding ticket before I get it framed.  I’ll then have the autographs of the 3 drivers and the Team Principal.

mJm

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